Andruw comes through
Jones' walk wins Game 6 as Braves escape Mets 10-9 in 11
Posted: Wednesday October 20, 1999 10:20 AM
Walk this way: Atlanta's Andruw Jones showed great composure taking the final at-bat to a 3-1 count. AP
ATLANTA (AP) -- It was amazin' all right.
And in the end, it was the Atlanta Braves who had the final comeback, wrecking the New York Mets' grand plan for a Subway Series.
Andruw Jones drew a bases-loaded walk from Kenny Rogers with one out in the 11th inning and the Braves somehow survived, beating the Mets 10-9 Tuesday night to take the NL Championship Series 4-2.
"We had chances to die and we didn't," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "There's more than one way to win a ballgame."
On a night that had even more drama than the Mets' 4-3, 15-inning win Sunday at Shea Stadium, a roaring crowd of 52,335 saw one of the most thrilling playoff games ever. It was the fifth straight one-run decision.
"It's been two weeks of constant mental anguish and torture, just not knowing what's going to happen," Braves reliever John Rocker said. "Games hinging on one pitch, night after night after night."
Atlanta advanced to the World Series for the fifth time this decade. Game 1 against the New York Yankees will be Saturday night at Turner Field in a rematch of the 1996 Series.
The Mets nearly became the first team in postseason history to win three games in a row after losing the first three.
The Mets overcame a 5-0 deficit in the first inning, getting a big home run by Mike Piazza to make it 7-all in the seventh. But they could not hold one-run leads in the eighth and 10th.
"I told them they played like champions," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "We don't have a trophy, but they did everything they had to."
The Mets took a 9-8 lead on Todd Pratt's sacrifice fly in the 10th at exactly the stroke of midnight. It came off Rocker, who pitched in every game in the series and was involved in a car crash Monday.
The Braves tied it in the bottom of the inning on pinch-hitter Ozzie Guillen's single.
Then in the 11th, Gerald Williams led off with a double and moved up on Bret Boone's sacrifice. Two intentional walks loaded the bases for Jones, and he worked the count full before taking a ball high and outside.
Valentine slammed the railing on the top step of the dugout and shouted, "Oh, no!" when Rogers missed.
"Everything you've done in the past, they'll forget about and remember this," said Rogers, who pitched a perfect game for Texas in 1994. "That is just the way it is."
Said Jones: "I was just going out there, taking pitches until he threw me a strike. He didn't, and I took a walk."
The tension showed on both sides, as every player, coach and person in each dugout was up against the railing for the final batter. The crowd - about 8,000 more than in the first two games -- included a healthy dose of Mets fans who shouted along.
Russ Springer wound up the winning pitcher. Braves catcher Eddie Perez, a starter because Javy Lopez was out for the season, was MVP of the series. Perez was 10-for-20 with five RBIs.
"We never could give up. They never gave up," Perez said.
Now the Braves get a chance to avenge their loss to the Yankees in October 1996. This marks the first time Series rivals have met in the regular season -- Atlanta went 2-1 at Yankee Stadium in interleague play right after the All-Star break.
"We've got another shot at them," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
The Mets, four outs from elimination in Game 4 and two outs away in Game 5, almost found another way to win.
With "Why not?" written on a clubhouse board, they scored three times in the sixth to chase starter Kevin Millwood and make it 5-3. Piazza, banged up and silent for most of the week, homered off reliever John Smoltz to tie it at 7 in the seventh.
Both teams scored in the eighth -- the Mets on Melvin Mora's single, the Braves on Brian Hunter's single -- and each club had its chance to win in the 10th.
For the Braves, their eighth straight trip to the NLCS wound up with a win and a chance for them to win that elusive second World Series title in the 1990s.
For the Mets, the loss marked the end of an incredible run. They needed a sweep on the final weekend of the regular season and a win over Cincinnati in the wild-card tiebreaker just to reach the playoffs.
Smoltz had earned a save in Game 2 in his first major league relief appearance, but had nothing this time. Given a 7-3 lead, the former Cy Young winner gave it right back on doubles by pinch-hitter Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson, an RBI single by John Olerud and Piazza's liner over the fence in right-center field.
Piazza was forced to leave Game 5 after 13 innings because of injuries to his hand, thumb and forearm. He was just 3-for-22 in the series before connecting.
Down 5-0, the Mets began yet another comeback bid with three runs in the sixth. Piazza had a sacrifice fly and Darryl Hamilton hit a two-run single that finished Millwood.
The Braves bounced back in a contentious bottom of the sixth for two runs and a 7-3 lead.
Brian Jordan was hit on his injured right hand by Turk Wendell's first pitch. Jordan glared at the reliever and walked onto the grass part of the infield before plate umpire Jerry Crawford got between them.
The Braves eventually loaded the bases, and Jordan was forced out at the plate on Walt Weiss' grounder -- with a price for the Mets. Jordan, a former NFL defensive back, slid hard and wiped out Piazza, who had no intention of trying for a double play.
Piazza and Jordan stared at each other and, with both dugouts on the brink of emptying, order was quickly restored. Jose Hernandez, batting for pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart, hit a two-run single off Dennis Cook.
Pitching on three days' rest for the only second time in his career, Mets starter Al Leiter looked lost. He hit two batters, walked another and made a wild throw on a comebacker and was pulled after six batters, retiring none of them.
Notes: Leiter pitched on three days' rest on April 17, 1994, for Toronto. He went 6 2-3 innings in a no-decision against the Angels. ... Comedian Jerry Seinfeld schmoozed with the Mets during batting practice.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.